Why do people steal dogs?
The government estimates that there were 2,000 incidents of dog theft reported in England and Wales in 2020. The pandemic has fuelled an increased demand for pets resulting in a significant rise in puppy prices; according to the Dogs Trust, the cost of the five most popular breeds rose by almost 90% during the first lockdown. A number of animal charities and experts have surmised that the increase in the cost of puppies may have triggered a rise in pet theft.
How to prevent dog theft
Neighbourhood Watch’s Protect your Pooch campaign makes three main recommendations to help prevent dog stealing and keep your dog safe.
- Make sure your garden is secure, both to prevent your dog escaping and also to prevent thieves gaining access (most stolen dogs are taken from their home and in particular, from the garden (Research | Pet Theft Reform ); fit a bell or gate alarm to rear or side gates or fit locks or a padlock to the gate.
- Be careful when posting on local social media and don’t tag your location.
- Never leave your dog alone in a car - apart from being dangerous from a health point of view, they can easily be targeted by thieves.
- Don’t leave your dog tied up outside a shop, even for a short time.
- Train your dog to come when called and/or use an extendable lead, especially in unfamiliar areas.
- Vary the times and routes of your walks and walk with friends.
- Be wary of strangers asking lots of questions about your dog when out walking. Report any suspicious activity to the police.
- If you use dog walkers or kennels, check references carefully.
- Make sure your dog is microchipped and that details are up to date on any of the approved registration databases https://www.gov.uk/get-your-dog-microchipped . It is a legal requirement for dogs to be microchipped by the age of eight weeks.
- Don’t forget that your dog should also, by law, wear a collar and a tag bearing the name and address of the owner. A phone number is also useful to help reunite a lost dog with its owner quickly. It is recommended that you don’t include the dog’s name.
- Take photos of your dog from different angles, particularly any distinguishing marks or features. Pictures of your dog in various conditions e.g. pre and post-groom are also useful as is a picture of you with your dog to help prove ownership.
The recently released Government Pet Theft Taskforce Policy paper (September 2021) Pet theft taskforce report - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) recommends supporting the pilots of police forces who are trialling new voluntary forms of ID, such as DNA databases to work alongside microchipping.
- DNA Protected is a dog DNA test from UK forensic company Cellmark, designed for dog theft prevention.
- It uses your dog’s unique DNA (nature’s ultimate identification system) to provide an extra layer of security because unlike microchips it cannot fail, be changed or removed.
- Simply take a mouth swab using the DNA Protected dog DNA test kit. At the laboratory it will be DNA profiled and loaded to the Forensic Dog DNA Database which can be searched to help reunite lost and stolen dogs with their owners.
- High visibility DNA Protected leads, collars, tags and window stickers help prevent dogs being stolen by making the dog snatchers think twice about taking your dog.
- Supported by the police, DNA Protected is a nationwide dog theft prevention initiative which shows thieves that you have chosen to take extra steps to protect your dog.